Annenberg Radio

College use of cannabis increases as alcohol consumption drops

This increase in use could be a sign that people prefer a ‘healthier alternative’ to alcohol.

Marijuana use by college students is on the rise. Alcohol consumption is going down. This is according to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan Institute of Social Research. Jack Reid looks at why.

As college students around the world return to campus, the National Institute on Drug Addiction reports that college use of marijuana has escalated by 6 percent, while use of alcohol has gone down by the same amount!

In the heart of Los Angeles, many USC students feel that this trend is especially reflected here. There are a lot of students lighting up, says Business Administration student Gabby Ellis.

GABBY ELLIS: Here there is a lot of encouragement towards like using it as like a stress reliever or just like as something to do, like pre-party, pre-game or anything like that.

DIEGO JOSE: I haven’t experienced pressure from somebody… the people who do it, they stay in their lane and they respect like other people who don’t do it.

That’s film production major Diego Jose.

DIEGO JOSE: I’m from Mexico and like, it’s not legal and stuff. So the first week, like, I saw a bunch of people that I made smoking and stuff, so I was taken aback.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in California, of course it’s easier than ever to get. But Business Admin. student Gabby Ellis offers another reason why weed use might be on the rise while drinking is losing a little bit of its popularity.

GABBY ELLIS: I think marijuana could be like a healthier alternative.

It could be healthier even in the long run. Professor Antonio Damasio teaches Psychology, Philosophy, and Neurology at USC.

ANTONIO DAMASIO: If you are a consumer of marijuana, you tend to be not only have less long term consequences, but probably you are less likely to be addicted to alcohol.

Damasio says that the need to escape, or cope, somehow… anyhow grew a great deal during the COVID pandemic.

ANTONIO DAMASIO: So we’re dealing with a huge cause of trauma, a huge cause of suffering. Now, any time that there’s suffering, whether it is in the middle of a crisis or just in the course of a normal life with a human being, you tend to medicate yourself, quote unquote. And whether that medication is going to be with a form of drugs to be a tranquilizer or alcohol or marijuana, it doesn’t make any difference.

COVID has complicated our lives, increased isolation and messed with our social lives. But Professor Damasio says that no matter what the preferred method of trying to cope, here’s the thing to remember:

ANTONIO DAMASIO: It’s still a human being trying to alleviate suffering.